How Diet and Exercise Helps Depression and Anxiety

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When you suffer from depression or anxiety, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. But exercise is actually one of the best things you can do for both your body and mental health. In fact, diet and exercise, combined with other self-care methods, can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Feel overwhelmed just thinking of it? I understand. I have been there, too.

The psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help you manage stress and anxiety. So how exactly does exercise help depression and anxiety? How does a healthy diet affect depression and anxiety?

1. Exercise and Depression and Anxiety

We all know that exercise is good for us, but how does it actually affect our bodies? Well, exercise has both physical and psychological effects on our body. Regular exercise can help you manage depression and anxiety by:

  • Releases feel-good endorphins: Natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being are released during exercise. This can improve your mood and increase your overall energy levels.
  • Occupying your mind: Exercise helps you regain focus, and release stress. This way, you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.

Regular exercise can also help you:

  • Gain confidence: Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Taking a few minutes out of your day to do some simple exercises can go a long way.
  • Get more social interaction: Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way: Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.

These are only a few of the benefits of exercising, as exercise has benefits that go far beyond weight loss.

2. Diet and Depression and Anxiety

Like exercise, a healthy diet is a major component of mental health. Your gut is your second brain!  There are many foods that can help you adjust your gut microbiome and so lessen your depression and anxiety. Some of these foods include those rich in antioxidants like:

How Diet and Exercise Helps Depression and Anxiety
  • Beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, and sweet potato.
  • Vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, and tomato.
  • Vitamin E: margarine, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, and wheat germ.

Selenium also helps regulate your mood. Foods that can help raise your selenium levels are:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey)
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts - but no more than three a day because of their high selenium content)
  • Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish)
  • Whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)

Additionally, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids are crucial when it comes to making sure your body and mind function properly.

3. Simple Exercises

When you think of exercise, you probably think of going to the gym. However, exercise doesn't always have to mean running laps. Simply walking for 10-30 minutes a day is enough for you to experience some of the benefits of exercising.

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You can start small, say by taking a 10-minute walk every day, and worm your way up from there. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.

You don't have to do all your exercise or other physical activity at once. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day. For example, you can try taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing some stretches every now and again.

The Diet and Exercise for Depression Takeaway

All in all, both a healthy diet and exercise are beneficial to your mental health. Making small changes each day can help you manage your depression and anxiety.

If you feel fatigued and depressed a lot, I invite you to get my checklist and roadmap on how to reverse depression, emotional paint and chronic fatigue below!

About the author

Dr. Christine Sauer

Dr. Christine Sauer, MD, ND is a German-trained, retired conventional as well as naturopathic physician, a Certified Brain, and Mental Health Coach and a Nutrition, Supplementation, Weight Loss and Emotional Eating Expert. Through her own journey from the successful owner of a large medical practice in Germany through the abyss of mental and physical illness to complete recovery, she discovered her unique process, combining education, life and health coaching, to help her clients to "Recover Your Sparkle", to achieve lasting peace, joy, and 5-dimensional health. Her mission is to be a beacon for love, joy, and peace in this scary world. Her hobbies are science, learning new things, cooking, gardening, and her husband and dog.
She is also an international #1 bestselling author, TEDx speaker, mentor and trainer for other coaches and a loving human being!

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